Investor Carl Icahn announced Friday that he had stepped down from his advisory role to President Trump. Icahn was counseling the president regarding regulatory reform issues, but he said he was announcing his resignation after a conversation with Trump earlier Friday in which the president "agreed" with his decision.
In a letter to Trump to "confirm" their conversation, Icahn emphasized that he "never had a formal position" with the White House. "I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration," Icahn wrote. "I sincerely regret that because of your extremely busy schedule, as well as my own, I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I'd hoped on regulatory issues."
JUST IN: Carl Icahn says he will "cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform." pic.twitter.com/JNCRrs9zdq
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 18, 2017
President Trump has decided to fire his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, two administration officials told The New York Times on Friday. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement that Bannon and Chief of Staff John Kelly "have mutually agreed that today would be Steve's last day."
It was initially unclear whether Bannon resigned his post or whether he was fired, though CNN reported Bannon "was offered" the option to resign, implying that if he had declined, he would have been unilaterally fired. The Times reported that contrary to what Trump has told aides, "a person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but it was delayed in the wake of the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia." Circa reporter Sara Carter said Friday that Bannon told her he resigned from the White House two weeks ago.
The former Breitbart executive chair "may return" to the website, Drudge Report writes. New York's Gabriel Sherman cited a "source close to Bannon" to confirm that Bannon is "expected" to return to the hard-right outlet.
In a series of interviews earlier this week, Bannon broke with the president to say there is "no military solution" to North Korea and he called the far right, who he helped Trump mobilize to win the election, "a collection of clowns." The Week Staff
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.
On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) endorsed censuring President Trump over his response to the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. "The president's repulsive defense of white supremacists demands that Congress act to defend our American values," she said in a statement.
— Mike DeBonis (@mikedebonis) August 18, 2017
Censure is a formal statement of disapproval; it does not mean the public official in question must give up their office although it "would be a formal and historic rebuke from Congress of Trump's remarks," ABC News explains.
Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), and Bonnie Watson Coleman (N.J.) intend to introduce the censure resolution against the president, with 79 co-sponsors, on Friday. The resolution specifically cites Trump's failure to "condemn the 'Unite the Right' rally or cite the white supremacist, neo-Nazi gathering as responsible for actions of domestic terrorism." It also condemns Trump for "surround[ing] himself with, and cultivated the influence of, senior advisors and spokespeople who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-right, racist, and anti-Semitic principles and policies within the country."
"Democrats will use every avenue to challenge the repulsiveness of President Trump's words and actions," Pelosi said. Jeva Lange
President Trump on Friday elevated the U.S. Cyber Command to become the 10th unified command in the U.S. military, putting it on equal footing with the likes of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Strategic Command. The move is aimed to "strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our nation's defense," Trump said in a statement, per Politico.
Trump added that the promotion will also "help streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander with authorities commensurate with the importance of such operations."
— Aaron Mehta (@AaronMehta) August 18, 2017
Cyber Command will continue to be led by the director of the National Security Agency, Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, although Defense Secretary James Mattis will reportedly consider further separating it from the NSA, with a recommendation expected at a later date, The Washington Post reports.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded to the news positively in a statement. "I am pleased with today's announcement elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a unified combatant command," he said. He added that "while we welcome this elevation, there is much more to be done to prepare our nation and our military to meet our cybersecurity challenges." Jeva Lange
The Dow Jones closed Thursday afternoon down more than 274 points as investors were rattled by the chaos engulfing the Trump White House in addition to a deadly terrorist attack in Barcelona. The 1.2 percent drop in the Dow made for the index's biggest drop in three months and its second-worst day of the entire year. The Nasdaq Composite also posted a 1.9 percent slide, while the S&P 500 plunged 1.5 percent.
The market was particularly spooked by the idea that former Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn could resign from President Trump's National Economic Council, Barron's reports, given Cohn is in charge of the administration's tax reform efforts. Cohn was reportedly "disgusted" by Trump's tepid response to the white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, which resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Kimberly Alters
A van jumped the curb and plowed into a crowd in the center of Barcelona on Thursday. Thirteen people were killed and at least 100 were injured, Catalonian authorities said. Police have confirmed that the incident was a terrorist attack. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news agency.
The driver of the van reportedly fled on foot after plowing into pedestrians in the city's historic Las Ramblas district, a popular tourist destination. Two suspects have been arrested. Local authorities in the Catalonian town of Vic — almost due north of Barcelona — have said they identified a second van linked to the attack in Las Ramblas, The Guardian reports.
Police have dismissed earlier reports that two armed men were hiding out in a bar following the attack. Becca Stanek
BREAKING: Spanish Police say "massive" van crashes into tourist center in Barcelona injuring multiple people https://t.co/IdO5sJPr3p
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 17, 2017
— Yahoo News (@YahooNews) August 17, 2017
This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.
President Trump hailed Gen. John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing in a tweet Thursday, promoting the myth that the Philippine-American War officer had used bullets dipped in pigs' blood to shoot Muslims as a method of discouraging terrorism:
Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Trump has previously touted Pershing as a disturbing example of how to deal with terrorism, telling the unproven story at a South Carolina rally in 2016: "[Pershing] took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig's blood," Trump claimed. "And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person he said, 'You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.' And for 25 years there wasn't a problem, okay?"
The fact that there is no evidence at all to support the myth of Pershing's appalling executions — MSNBC writes that "the story appears to be a hoax spread via e-mail forwards" — is being highlighted by critics who note "the president said two days ago he waits for the facts before talking about attacks," as BuzzFeed News' David Mack points out. Jeva Lange
George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush release a joint statement urging Americans to 'reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred'
On Wednesday, former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush released a joint statement calling on Americans to "always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms." "As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city's most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: We are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country," the former Republican presidents said in the statement.
Though the father and son's statement did not directly mention President Trump, it was released one day after Trump blamed "both sides" for the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, insisting that there were "some very fine people" marching alongside the white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Read the full statement below. Becca Stanek
JUST IN: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush: “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms" pic.twitter.com/6Q4xHCiPRy
— ABC News (@ABC) August 16, 2017